Traveling with an Infant

Dear Mama,

Nothing seems more daunting than traveling with an infant. And for some reason, my husband and I decided to travel with our daughter on 3 airplane trips when she was 5 -10 months old. Flying with an infant is not the most fun experience but I have learned a lot along the way to share with you so that your trip will *hopefully* be smooth!

A lot of your success in flying with your infant comes down to how to pack and organize what you need on the airplane. When packing I recommend making your carry-on bag as easy to access as possible. Only take things that you know you’ll need easy access to…

  • In your carry-on I suggest organizing your bag as much as possible. Inside of my carry-on I had 2 small bags for:
    • Diapering. One bag had everything we needed for diaper changes. No one wants to be in an airplane bathroom for long. Even fewer of us want our infant in an airplane bathroom for long. Pack a travel changing pad, diapers (amount will vary on length of trip), diaper cream, wipes and a change of clothes. 
    • Toys. I found it easier to have the toys contained in one bag that I could pull out of my carry-on than to look through the carry-on each time we needed a toy. Try to pack toys that have a range of uses- something for teething, something soft they can squeeze, something for building, etc.
  • Insulated cup with sealed lid for hot water to heat up bottles or formula. Even if you plan to nurse (as I always have), I brought a bottle of milk in case my daughter was too distracted to eat. By my third flight, I realized bringing an insulated cup would allow us to get hot water before we got on the airplane so the bottle was ready to go, instead of getting a coffee cup from the flight attendant and burning hot water pouring all over my husbands hands while he tried to get us settled and warm the bottle at the same time
  • Pump should be easily accessible if you need to pump on the airplane (with extra breast milk bags and Medela quick clean wipes so you can clean your pump parts and bottle on the airplane). If you don’t plan to pump on the airplane, I’d still have it in my carry-on just in case!
  • If your baby is over 6 months old and eating food, pack something that the baby likes and will keep them entertained that can also double as a teething distraction because babies are somehow always teething when you plan to fly. Food is a great activity for them and will take up a lot of time, which is basically the goal!
  • As mentioned before, you can almost guarantee your baby will be teething while you’re flying so pack Tylenol and teething toys in your carry-on so you’re not looking for either in an emergency.
  • Also pack burp cloths, especially if your child throws up everything you feed them like mine does and a swaddle or blanket to cover baby.
  • Any other items your baby likes (like a pacifier) and have multiple in your bag. 
  • A nursing cover can also double as a blackout curtain if your baby falls asleep under it.

Airport tips

  • Breast milk can be hand checked and go through an x-ray machine, you do not need to follow the liquid limit when it comes to breastmilk but always check the TSA website (not your airline) before you fly for updated guidelines. 
  • Change the baby’s diaper within 5 minutes of boarding. I use cloth diapers but someone recommended overnight diapers because they can be more absorbent so you may not need to change the baby on the airplane.
  • Check with your airline but, for the ones I’ve flown, diapers bag with milk and your pump doesn’t count against your total baggage allowance.
  • Take care of yourself too! Traveling is stressful, add a baby to the mix and it’s even more stressful! Having snacks that you can easily eat with one hand and water close by will help to make sure you’re taken care of so you can take care of the little one. Remember, you have to put on your face mask first before you can put on theirs. If you’re hungry or need to use the bathroom, you can’t take care of them properly and everyone will suffer. You matter just as much!!

On the Airplane

  • Use hand sanitizer to wipe everything when you sit down because your baby will lick everything
  • If your baby is a good on-the-go sleeper, congratulations you’re going to have a great trip! If your baby is like my daughter and you text Ann in a panic the day before that she isn’t going to sleep all day (thanks for that one, Ann!) then I can let you know a nap is possible. We made it happen by making sure she was completely full, we used the sound machine because she fell asleep 2 minutes before they started the food/drink service and we put her in a sleep sack to make her comfortable
    • Try following OWT as best you can, but, look for fussiness too because travel is hard for a baby and takes extra energy.
  • Have a feeding plan in advance. If you’re bottle feeding, think about the number of ounces you want to offer for take-off and landing. Depending on flight time and duration, you may need to offer a half feed for take off and the other half for landing (ex. 5:30am full feed at home-  7:30 am 3 oz at takeoff and 9:30 am 3 oz for landing).

After landing

  • Change baby right when you land in the airport, don’t try to get to your destination, trust me you will sit in traffic and they will be soaked through. 
  • Celebrate! You’ve made it and truly the hardest part is over. Now, enjoy your vacation!

You are so brave to fly with your infant and just know that the trip will be whatever the trip will be, and there isn’t much more you can do besides be prepared and try to enjoy yourself. Know that once you are home, you can get back on your “normal” routine and the goal for any trip is to just maintain your status quo routine. You likely won’t make sleep progress while traveling, and this is okay. Just do your best to keep your routine, and let the rest go!

To sleeping well,
Sara